Chinese pandas 'a symbol of friendship' with Australia
Chinese President Hu Jintao says two giant pandas bound for Australia are a symbol of friendship between the two countries.
China has agreed to send the endangered animals to the Adelaide Zoo after talks were held today between Mr Hu and Prime Minister John Howard.
The Chinese leader says they will be part of a joint research program.
"I would like to stress that this is the first time that a pair of Chinese giant pandas have ever settled in Australia and to be more specific in the Southern Hemisphere," he said.
"I believe that this will certainly become a new symbol of our friendship."
Prime Minister John Howard says Australia welcomes the gesture from China very much.
"It's important when you're talking about billions of dollars of resource contracts and you're talking about tens of thousands of students, it's also important to find in the relationship, the warmth and exhilaration that can come from the temporary residence of such lovely creatures," Mr Howard said.
The Adelaide Zoo is hoping the arrival of the pandas from China will provide a major tourism boost for South Australia.
The male and female pandas are expected to arrive in 2009 and will be on loan to the Zoo for 10 years as part of the joint research program.
Adelaide will be one of only a handful of zoos in the world to house the endangered species.
The Zoo's director of conservation programs, Kevin Evans, says they will be a huge drawcard.
"We feel that people will come from New Zealand and interstate to see pandas as they do internationally," she said.
"People will travel vast distances to see giant pandas because they are so interesting and have been the flagship for conservation for over 30 years ... so we think we'll certainly have a huge spike in visitation when they arrive."
Wangwang (a two year old male)
Funi (one year old female)
I will definitely go and visit them in Adelaide.
The last and only time I have seen a panda was in Washington DC at the (Smithsonian) National Zoo some ten years ago - the panda was Hsing Hsing who was a gift (along with Ling Ling) from China in 1972 to the American people. Ling Ling had died and I am glad to have seen Hsing Hsing before he died not long after my visit.
Today was rather busy at work.